The Importance of Gamejams and Guildford Jam Event

Suffice to say that while we at ScaryGranules love video games and find so many behind the scenes aspects to be fascinating, none of us are actual developers. We’re writers and artists, we’re in marketing and brand for large gaming companies but in terms of being able to create a game from scratch, at least one that would wow people, so far we’re out of our leagues. Other than going hard in MsPaint, of course.

That’s why when we were asked to judge at the Guildford GameJam organised by the wonderfully cheery and talented voice actress Lorraine Ansell as part of the Wells in Woking celebrations, we were delighted but also a bit nervous, in a good way. Delighted to be part of the actual crucial stages of the creation of a video game, to see what’s involved, to be part of the excitement and tension of trying to give digital life to a concept within a tight time limit. Nervous for the reasons stated in the introduction.

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For those that don’t know Gamejams are usually, friendly competitive events where teams or individuals are given a set time to create, from scratch, a playable game. Usually this is related to a theme, for example at the Guildford Gamejam the theme was in honour of HR Wells, so each group set to work on building a game that took influence from Wells’ works.

 

Our involvement with Gamejams prior to this has been as spectators at events, primarily those hosted at big gaming conventions such as Rezzed. We’ve come to meet a lot of gaming developers over the years via our work here, our individual jobs and from other events.

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One jam-entity that stands out for us is Jupiter Hadley. She’s an avid lover and proponent of the indie game genre and has dedicated more hours than scientifically exist, to gamejams in particular. Her youtube channel contains a smorgasbord of great videos, covering Gamejam events and more. For an area of gaming that has increased in frequency and popularity, it still seems as though more people could benefit from learning just how important jams are, not just for developers hoping to getting into a full time job, but the social and community aspect. Which from what we’ve seen is something extremely positivity and sorely needed when a lot of media attention tends to focus on the more negative aspect of the gaming world.

Oddly enough we’ve been in the same vicinity, in different countries, with Jupiter and yet not officially said hello to each other, despite having a good repertoire on social media. That will thankfully change at the end of this month, when we’ll not only be attending Gamerbake hosted at Ukie, but there’s literally no way of avoiding each other as we’re both judging the cake-fest. Jupiter has a patreon page if you wish to support her, as she has been and continues to be a great supporter of indie games as a whole!

We asked her what her thoughts were in the importance of Gamejams and the need for these events to be supported.

Game jams are a core part of the indie gaming community. They give developers the chance to make prototypes in a quick manner, which is a skill that is essential to development.

They force developers to make quick decisions and learn how to manage time as well as scope within just a few days. Game jams are a challenge, they test developer’s skills, and they provide a productive, short, distraction from the main project a developer might be working on. Physical jams, in particular, allow developers to work together on a quick project, learning from others and hopefully creating something they are proud of all while meeting new people who have the same interests. ~ Jupiter Hadley

All of the above was evident at the Guildford Jam. Watching all the ingredients be spliced together by a team of passionate game creators was wonderful to watch and also conjured admiration and a tiny bit of jealously and that’s including Alejandro Arque, the Super Saiyan behind Life is Strange.

 

As judges we were tasked with viewing each game, learning what they were about and seeing how well they executed their goals, in keeping with the theme. 5 categories of prizes included Best Audio, Best Overall Game and the Dark Souls Award for the most difficult, game of them all.

hgWhite Space – Best Audio hg

hgRosetta – Dark Souls Awards hg

hgPlanetball 2000 – Best Game hg

hgWar of the Wells – Best Theme Gamehg

hgOne Small Step – Funniest Gamehg

 

There’s a great satisfaction to building something with your mind and hands (if you can actually build something with just your mind, congratulations on your enrollment to the Xavier Institute). Seeing that on a big screen (or any really, who’s fussy), being enjoyed by friends and strangers, is a feeling that must be hard to compete with. Finding a game you enjoy because it ticks all the boxes, in terms of story, graphics and game-play is something we all treasure as gamers, but finding the story behind the development of games adds something special that isn’t beholden to savvy marketing or utilising the best creator tools on the market.

We’re now besmitten by Gamejams and extremely grateful to have been part, even in a small way, of this recent one. We’d like to thank all the developers for their time and genuinely fun games, Media Molecule for hosting the event and Lorraine Ansell for just being a wonderful human in general. We’re looking forward for the next jam/granule fusion!

 

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